Living in Faith, Scripture verses, What I've Learned Lately

Embrace the fact that you’re an encourager

I have always been a predominantly optimistic, glass-half-full kind of person. That’s not to say I don’t get discouraged or say negative things or sometimes play the “what if something terrible happens” game — because I do. Two important realizations related to this struck me a few weeks ago:

I’m not just a person with a positive attitude. I’m an encourager.

never feel bad about being an encouragerI need to own that fact and stop apologizing for being an encourager. And that includes no longer feeling guilty about looking for positive things when surrounded by negativity or stifled by the weight of situations. No more feeling “less than” when other people might think my mindset is ill-founded.

My ah-ha moments came while listening to a workshop from this year’s Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Author/editor Lisa Crayton led a workshop called “Writing to Encourage.” And although she was addressing writers, many of the things she said apply to each of us as Christians.

Here’s one gem:

“We are the keepers of encouragement,” she said. “We have the Spirit of God in us to encourage others.”

The keepers of encouragement. I love the perspective. Those of us who follow Christ have the best news in the world to share and the biggest reason to hold onto hope and help others do the same.

God wired us to be encouragers. And if ever there was a time when people need to be encouraged, it’s now. Click To Tweet

Bible verses in both the Old and New Testaments tell us to do this. Here are just a few:

  • Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. (Ecclesiastes 4:9)
  • I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. (Romans 1:11-12)
  • And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  • Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

I know there have been times when people viewed me as a Pollyanna who doesn’t want to acknowledge negative things. They’ve looked at me as less worldly or less mature, as someone wearing blinders to the harsh realities of life.

And I’ve let them do that. I’ve kept my mouth shut or downplayed the encouragement or optimism I could have shared because of how I believed they would view it. Because I didn’t want to see another round of eye rolls or “she’s clueless” glances or hear the “yeah, right” huffs.

Their attitudes toward me are wrong, but so is my response.

I can’t control what they think of me. I can control how I react.

We can make a difference in people’s lives by showing them the encouragement we know as followers of Christ. Click To Tweet

In her workshop, Lisa Crayton also said, “Christian writers are uniquely positioned … to lead readers out of their place of discouragement to finding the encouragement that they need.”

I agree with that statement 110% as a Christian writer, but also as a Christian trying to get through each day in this unpredictable world.

As Romans 12:8 says, If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. (NLT)

Encouragement doesn’t have to come across as preachy or goody-goody or out of touch. I’m not perfect at it and there are plenty of times when I don’t follow through on an opportunity as I should. But I — we — can get better at it if we’ll ask for God’s help.

be encouraging to othersWhy should we bother? Because God wired us to be encouragers. And if ever there was a time when people need to be encouraged, it’s now.

It can be as small as telling someone you hope they have a great day. Or sending a text to someone you haven’t connected with in a long time. Or letting the person in line behind you at the grocery store go first because they have five items in their basket and your cart is crammed full.

If “official” encouragement feels uncomfortable right now, we can encourage from behind the scenes. Prayers lifted on someone’s behalf can do wonders, even if they don’t know you’re praying.

So take heart, fellow encouragers! I believe it’s time for us to step up and share this gift we’ve been given without being timid or intimidated. Without apologizing or feeling self-conscious.

An unapologetic encourager. That’s what I want to be.

Will you join me?

We can make a difference in people’s lives by showing them the encouragement we know as followers of Christ. How can you see yourself doing that for the people around you? Leave a comment to share an idea and encourage others who stop by.

Be blessed today, my friends!


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Living in Faith, Scripture verses, What I've Learned Lately

Showing God to the world: 12 Bible verses to remember

When my employer directed us to begin working from home in March 2020, we had no idea how long it would last or what would happen along the way. There have been struggles and frustrations during this time at home and at work, but there have been lots of positive things, too. I have loved this time at home with family, have loved not dealing with my usual commute, and have loved getting back to some things that had fallen by the wayside — like writing.

12 Bible verses about showing God to the worldBut my department will start going back to the office in a few weeks, and I’ve been in a bit of a funk because of it. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy my job and I work with great people. But I’ve gotten spoiled by the relaxed world of working from home in t-shirts and no makeup.

God reminded me a few days ago that even though I might not look forward to some aspects of returning to the office, I still have plenty to be thankful for. Things like:

  • Having a job to return to (and that didn’t change during this crazy time)
  • Still being able to work from home routinely, probably two days a week (which wasn’t the case before 2020)
  • Building memories with my family while we’ve been home together so much
  • Growing in my faith and trying to trust God more when things felt so uncertain

And then God reminded me of one big reason why I don’t need to always work from home and be mostly  surrounded by my church friends:

I need to be out in the world if the world is going to see God in me.

And isn’t that part of the point?

Our job as Christians is to show God to everyone around us through what we say, what we do — and what we don’t say or do. That means each day I go into the office, I have the chance to show God to my coworkers whether they realize it or not. And as fabulous as technology might be, it’s not a substitute for working side-by-side with someone and getting to know who they are and what they represent.

With that in mind, here are 12 Bible verses that help us remember that we’re not meant to keep God to ourselves. We’re meant to show others what it means to have Him in our lives.

12 verses about telling people about God

  1. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. (Psalm 40:10)
  2. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. (Psalm 71:15-16)
  3. “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matthew 5:13)
  4. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19)
  5. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. (Mark 16:15)
  6. “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:39)
  7. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
  8. I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
  9. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
  10. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:6)
  11. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
  12. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1)
  13. We constantly face changes at home, at work, and everywhere we go. But wherever we are and whatever is happening around us, we can show what it means to love and follow God.

Share with us: How do you share God with the people around you every day? If you’ve returned to work or school after being at home for months, what made that shift easier? Or, do you have other favorite verses about sharing God with the world? Leave a comment to encourage the rest of us!

PS: On a writing-related note, I was the guest devotion writer this week at Inkspirations Online, a website for Christian writers. Here’s where you can read “Growing through critique.”


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God sightings, Scripture verses, What I've Learned Lately

Stepping (or floating) away from the rest of the world

getting away from the rest of the world

When was the last time you got away from the world for a while, just stepped away and enjoyed the peace and quiet without checking your phone every few minutes?

My husband and I spent several hours Sunday afternoon doing something we haven’t done together in years: fishing. And when I say years, I mean I can’t remember fishing together since before we were married (and we celebrated #31 in April!).

He’s gone with friends and has taken our kids over the years and has even fished in creeks or the surf when we’ve gone places. But just the two of us in a boat together? Not since our dating days.

Our church is currently sharing a pastor with another congregation, which means our service is over by 10 a.m. Afterwards, I picked up lunch while my husband got the boat ready and we headed to one of the local reservoirs.

It was a gorgeous afternoon, sunny and calm with a sky so blue it looked Photo Shopped. We heard lots of frogs on the bank and I could count on one hand the number of other boats we saw or cars we heard.

Lovely time away from all the other “things” — absolutely lovely.

Lots of things have changed for us as we’ve adjusted to life as empty nesters in the past year. Our schedules have shifted and we’re finding ways to fill the hours (nights, weekends) that used to be focused on the kids and their things (not that we ever regret those days — it’s what makes parenting parenting). It’s nice to find new things to do together or get back to some things we enjoyed years ago.

Stepping away from the rest of the world and its busyness can be tough to do, but it’s vital for us physically, mentally and spiritually. We need time away by ourselves and time away with those closest to us.

Jesus got away – so we can, too.

After all, if Jesus could take time away from the world in the midst of His ministry, who am I to think I don’t need a break myself? Sometimes Jesus got away by Himself (such as in Matthew 12:22-23, Mark 1:35) and sometimes He took a few of His closest disciples with Him (such as in Mark 14:32-42).

In both situations, Jesus set the example and sent an important message: it’s okay to step away from the world to relax and recharge. No guilt necessary. 😊

I think it’s also important to pay attention to when Jesus carved out these getaway times. They often were after something monumental had happened, when He needed focused prayer time, or when He was on the brink of a decision or change.

Sound familiar? Those are the times when I need to step away, too – and maybe the same is true for you.

When you realize that time is needed, how do you recharge? Sometimes I go somewhere by myself, such as the Monastery of the Holy Spirit that’s not too far from our home. Other times it’s nice to go with someone. I’m glad I said “yes” to fishing on Sunday and “no” to the other things I could have done. Because guess what? Those other things still got done later.

Plus, I started the week in a better frame of mind after getting away for a while. I hope you make time to step away from the busyness in your world this week, too. What will you try?

 

Dear Lord, our days are so full of things to do, things to plan, things that fill our minds and keep us busy, busy, busy. Help us slow down. Help us step away to rejuvenate ourselves and to reconnect with You and the people we love. Because when we slow down, we’ll see You. When we see You, we’ll be changed. And that’s what we want. Amen.


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Living in Faith, What I've Learned Lately, Writing life

Iron sharpening iron … in a writer’s contest world

Creativity takes courage. Henri Matisse was right about that.

Whatever form it might take — art, music, writing, design — sharing the “baby” of your creative soul is scary and humbling and sometimes downright humiliating. I’ve experienced all three (and more) with my writing. Sharing what you’ve created is not for the faint of heart and doesn’t necessarily get any easier with time.

Creativity takes courage quote from Henri MatisseAnyone who looks at this blog or my author social media accounts can see that I stepped away from those things for a few years. The desire to write was still there, but some things had to shift when I went back to the corporate world after working from home for almost 18 years. Now life has shifted again and I’ve been dipping my toes back into the Christian writing world during the past few months (yes, partly because I’m working from home again due to COVID-19, but also because we’re now empty nesters so I have fewer Mom things on my plate).

Last month I decided to be brave and entered the “First Impressions” contest with American Christian Fiction Writers. It’s for writers who have never published book-length fiction; you submit a 200-word summary of the book and the first five pages to be judged.

I entered several contests years ago and also submitted work for faculty to critique when I went to writers’ conferences. Some comments were helpful, some were harder for me to find the help in. Most included at least a couple of encouraging notes, but one in particular was so hurtful to my tender ego that I couldn’t bring myself to write more of that story for months.

All that to say, I hoped for good scores and comments when I entered First Impressions, but mostly hoped I would be able to accept the judges’ critiques and learn from them. This story is a different genre and for a different audience from most of what I wrote years ago (young adult dystopian instead of historical romance). Plus, this is the first time I’ve written in first person/present tense and that’s a world away from the usual third person point of view.

One of my prayers when I submitted the entry was that God would either give me a bit of encouragement that I’m writing what He wants or that He would make it clear that I’m going in the wrong direction.

I said the same prayer when I sat at my computer this afternoon, butterflies in my stomach before I opened the email with my score sheets and comments. I asked God to help me keep an open heart and mind when I opened those three attachments and read what was inside.

iron in blacksmith fire
Photo from Morguefile

And then five minutes later I was sitting there with tears in my eyes and a hand clamped over my mouth, overwhelmed by God’s goodness.

Did I win my category? No. Was I one of the three finalists? No.

Instead, God blessed me with three gracious judges who gave valuable feedback but also shared encouragement and compliments that bolstered my insecurities. I can do this thing if I keep praying, keep learning, keep working hard.

Maybe someday God will bless me with a publishing contract so that my book can find its way to people who need to read it. Or maybe He won’t. All I can do is keep writing and be faithful to use this love for words that He gave me.

Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” That give-and-take of helping and accepting help applies to every area of life. It’s  a reminder that we need to be accountable to each other and that while sometimes we’re helping sharpen someone else, at other times we’re the one who needs to be sharpened.

Today that’s especially true in the writing corner of my life. Three people took time away from their own friends, family and writing to read my entry and share thoughts on how I can be a better writer. Today they sharpened me. And someday I’ll use that knowledge to help sharpen someone else.